First countries to be recipients of GAVI funds

The Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines has named the first 21 countries to receive funding for vaccines and vaccination infrastructure. They are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sao Tomé and Principe, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. These countries will get US$ 250 million over the next five years.

The fund, which was established through an initial gift of US$ 250 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is administered by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). It aims to bring its total resources to US$ 1.8 billion over the next five years. So far it has raised closed to US$ 1 billion.

About 98% of the fund’s resources go directly to countries’ immunization programmes. The first awards, a GAVI statement says, should enable the 21 recipient countries to immunize four million children against hepatitis B. A further 600 000 children, who would otherwise not have received any vaccines, will be immunized against childhood diseases common in these countries. Altogether about 100 000 lives will be saved every year, GAVI estimates, thanks to these first grants.

GAVI, which is an alliance of multilateral and bilateral agencies, foundations, the vaccine industry, technical organizations and international organizations — among them UNICEF, the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation and WHO — was launched in January this year to speed up the development and use of vaccines in poor countries.

‘‘Never before have we been able to provide this level of assistance directly to countries in such a short time,’’ said WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, who also chairs the GAVI board. ‘‘It is unacceptable that 30 million children today are not fully vaccinated.’’

The Global Fund aims to provide funding over the next two years to all 74 countries in the world with a per capita GNP of less than US$ 1000. Countries applying must provide five-year plans attesting to increased government commitment to vaccines and vaccination. The amount of support a country gets from the Fund depends on the extent to which it meets its vaccination goals: every newly immunized child, for example, earns for the country one ‘‘share’’ worth US$ 20 in Global Fund support. The country must use part of that support to strengthen routine immunization and part to introduce newer but under-used vaccines, such as those against hepatitis Band Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

‘‘This new approach — issuing an open call to eligible countries and asking them to design improved immunization programmes based on local needs and conditions — is clearly resonating among donors and developing country officials,’’ said UNICEF Director Carol Bellamy, also a member of the GAVI Board.

John Maurice, Bulletin

World Health Organization Genebra - Genebra - Switzerland
E-mail: bulletin@who.int